Most young footballers especially the talented ones tend to play box to box (7-aside), all over the pitch and you as the coach feel relaxed to let them because they will win matches. However when is it the right time to position players according to their strengths? When is it time to start teaching positions? When is it time to start teaching specific skills to certain individuals?
The most dominant teams in 7 aside are teams who have structure, bearing in mind these players are under the age of 10. You're probably wondering these players are restricted to positions at this young age where is the freedom to play and choose where they want to play on the pitch. some kids might know a position and some have no clue. But a good coach will cater for all players.
The evolving game now allows more freedom for players and of course the classic 4-4-2 days are over. Now 4-3-3 or 5-3-2 and many more formations are popular. Some of these new formations and tactics can be manipulated according to the squad's strength. This makes the game very tactical especially in the unpredictable English Premier League where any team can beat any team. Below is a simple breakdown for coaches to use for teaching positions and responsibilities.
Goalkeepers nowadays need to be good on their feet. The best thing to do is to get them involved with the team training. Receiving the ball under pressure is key. GK is the backbone of the back line, their presence must be felt (shouting). Technique of striking the ball with power and both feet is also essential. The vision and awareness of the GK is a huge advantage a good example is when Liverpool GK Allison Becker cleared the ball after seeing Mo Salah on the halfway line ready to counter attack, this assist in the 90+3 minute led to a 2 - 0 victory for over Man Utd.
Main characteristics - ball kicking, ball handling, positioning, vocal, quick reflexes.
Just like the CB they need to prevent opponents from scoring. They step in (cover) when the CB leaves a gap. They need to play like a winger on the line to widen the pitch. They need to show attackers away from goal to force them out. Full back and wing back are similar they need to beat defenders with speed and whip the ball in with a curl into the box. In transition they need to communicate clearly with teammates to avoid leaving gaps. Hector Bellerin is a good example he is quick, he scores, defends and crosses the ball.
Main characteristics - athleticism, pace, skillful.
Knowing when to tackle and timing is key. They do not need to be doing karate instead they need to jockey and be patient before attempting to tackle. Also need to be very vocal to organise the defence. Heading is essential to clear and control goal kicks or crosses (this takes a fearless character). Driving the ball from own half will attract opponents which creates gaps. In transition when the team loses the ball they need to build back their formation. Tyrone Mings is a great example of player who is vocal and organises the team because of the position he plays he can see a lot more than other teammates.
Main characteristics - physical strength, heading, stamina, vocal.
Central Defensive Midfielder
Third line of defence main goal is to win the and drive forward. Playing in the middle of the pitch where it is crowded means you run in all directions and usually cover the most distance in a match. It is a great advantage if you can use both feet for long passes and to shoot. Always leaves everything on the pitch example N'golo Kante.
Main characteristics - physical strength, stamina, endurance, ball possession.
Central Attacking Midfielders
Second line of defence must be very good at covering defenders and they need to spot good positions and runs made by strikers. During an attack they should hang in goal scoring positions between the halfway line and the D/ edge of the box. These guys can run upfront to distribute the ball to the strickers. A great example is when Kevin De Bruyne or David Silva they can pick out striker with through balls, long passes and shoot from outside the box. Their main role however is to assist.
Main characteristics - Assist, tackling, distribute ball out wide, shoot.
I used to play as a winger back in the day my coach used to tell me "You are the guy that runs with the ball down in a straight line and when your teammates are in the box you whip it in" this style of play has now been altered by the developing wing back or full back. Wingers now cut in to the middle of the park sometimes. The role involves tracking back a lot hence why endurance is a necessity. Getting the ball in the box will create the most chances. A great example is Man Utd , Sir Alex Ferguson's team had Nani. He could get past defenders quickly and cross the ball into the box. Currently Adama Traore, the Wolves winger does it very well and uses his strength.
Main characteristics - Speed, agile, skillful, athletic, physical strength.
A great example is Lionel Messi. Number 10 needs to get goals, assist, defend and attack. He is the player that wins the games. The player who comes up with that little bit of magic when no one expects it. Another player to imitate is Ozil, Arsene Wenger once described him as "the new Bergkamp, Ozil is now the calm amid the storm, the maestro who can conduct the pace of play to his liking and turn games in Arsenal's favour".
Main characteristics - reads the game, skillful, hold the ball, calm and composed.
First line of defense . Football matches are won by goals the stiker must be the goal scoring machine. They need to be clinical when finishing, calm in front of goal be able to score with their head and feet. They are required to be aggressive and they must put pressure on the back four and goalkeeper. Applying this pressure will force mistakes by the opponents, which creates chances. Thiery Henry and P. Aubameyang are good examples of goal scoring machines and good at pressing.
Main characteristics - speed endurance, clinical finishers, shooting
All these positions are good to explore for young players. As they mature they will find the best positions which suit. Plus a coach with good eye will make it easier for the player to choose a position if they are unsure. From a player's perspective don't afraid to explore any position on the pitch.
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Peace. Love and Football